A pre-teen girl is believed to have died from swine flu in an Ottawa hospital, in an area officials say is now a "hotspot" for the virus.

"At this point, we urge certain individuals to understand that currently in the Eastern Ontario region we are in a second wave of H1N1," said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the unit's Medical Officer of Health.

"We have seen an increase in influenza-like-illnesses in Ottawa hospitals in the last few weeks," he said.

"(Ontario's) Eastern counties, as well as the Kingston area are considered hotspots for H1N1," Roumeliotis said.

At this point, the girl tested positive for influenza A, and all recent cases of influenza A have died been identified as H1N1 influenza A. Officials are waiting for lab tests to confirm the girl did have the swine flu virus.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit said it could not release much information on the girl due to confidentiality reasons. She was slightly under 11 years of age, had siblings who are not showing symptoms, and lived somewhere in Eastern Ontario, in the Cornwall region.

The girl died sometime this weekend. Officials are not sure whether she had any underlying medical conditions.

She may be the first child in the area to die from the virus and the second person since the virus began circulating. She went to a school that had not previously been identified as having a swine flu outbreak. So far, 7 out of 25 schools have tested are positive for the H1N1 virus.

Children who are sick at home are randomly tested for the virus. An outbreak at a school is declared whenever 10 per cent of children are absent.

Officials are not sure how the girl got the flu and say that it is hard to track because the virus now is now circulating in the general population.

Roumeliotis said there are a number of patients suffering from the virus in hospital, including some recovering in intensive care units.

The area has seen 15 new cases so far in this second wave of H1N1 flu, which began a few weeks ago.

During the first wave in the summer, one person died and 28 people tested positive in the area.

High risk groups

Roumeliotis urged the public to practice hand washing and to be vaccinated against the virus, as clinics in Ontario roll out the vaccine starting Monday to people in high risk groups:

  • seniors over 65
  • people with chronic health conditions
  • pregnant women
  • children under five years old
  • health care workers
  • people in remote communities.

The virus seems to particularly attack young people. The average age of those hospitalized in the province has been 18.

More than 700,000 doses have already arrived at clinics with a second shipment scheduled for this week. That amount is enough for 75 per cent of the province's 12 million residents.

"I would presume that any tragic situation like this will help people make up their minds in a positive way" about getting vaccinated, Roumeliotis said.

"Unfortunately I think that now people will understand a bit more the severity of the infection and not call it a hoax or an overestimation or an exaggeration."

On Friday, Ontario health officials said the province has an increasing number of confirmed cases and that more and more people are visiting doctors with complications of flu.

There number of deaths had been stable since April at 24, but in recent weeks four more people have died. They said 439 people have been hospitalized with confirmed swine flu.

Officials in the province say there is enough vaccine for everyone that wants it and clinics will continue until December.